Cost of living in the Philippines

money-pesos-thumbsupThe 64-thousand-peso question. And a question I get asked often. Is the Philippines cheaper than Europe or United States and can you live here on a retirements pension or similar “low” income bases…
Yes it is, and yes you can. Just keep an eye on your spendings and set a vaguely defined daily or weekly budget.

Many people talk about money as if it’s the most important thing in the world and sound like their only motivation to move to a country like the Philippines is because “things are cheap”.
For some reasons that may be true. But that’s not what should be your inspiration in life should it? I like to think I came here because it’s less restrictive, not part of the western society and that the weather is nicer. nicer women too, perhaps. The cheap-ness is just a nice bonus.

Price comparison

I think it’s pointless to make an actual comparison table. Prices change. Exchange rates change and do you really care that a Big mac menu costs €3 less in the Philippines than in the Netherlands? Or that a beer is only 80 cents? If you want it you’ll buy it anyway.

So, compared to Europe; Food is cheaper, rent is cheaper, internet is more expensive. Utilities are generally cheaper, laundry service is cheap and public transport (not taxis) is generally dirt cheap. Fuel is cheaper and gadgets can be cheap (but usually aren’t), prepaid phone credit is cheaper and hotels are mostly the same price.

Budgeting for idiots

I get by on about a 1300 euros (~$1464 USD) a month on average, everything included. Yes, also my hotel. I try to stay in hotels that cost €25-35 per night. I buy most food and drinks in the supermarket and Sari-sari shops. I eat in a (usually) quality restaurant every day – And have been doing so for the last year or so, every day. Both for breakfast/lunch and dinner. I also tip taxi drivers, most of the time. And I use some form of paid transportation regularly, next to driving my motorbike.

How do I do that and not go bankrupt? By not counting pesos or caring for every transaction individually but by setting a spending limit per week or day. I’m more a weekly budget kind of guy…

On average I go to the ATM about three times a month and get 10000 pesos every time. That’s (currently) about 190-200 euros per withdrawal. That’s about €600 per month for spending – Food, drinks, transportation, snacks, phone credit, fuel, internet and donuts. Hotels/house rental and utilities make up the rest and I pay that with my credit card or via Paypal.

The Philippines is mostly a cash country. A credit card is as useful as the ATM that accepts it and not every ATM does. Outside the major malls you can not use plastic to pay. Pretty much all of my money dealings are done with cash. And seeing your wallet getting empty time and time again is a good measure to see if you’re going over “budget”. Even without setting a strict limit. Just try to limit your trips to the ATM to once a week or so.

Recently I’ve started keeping track of my spendings to get a better grasp of where my money goes. I’ve installed an app called ‘Daybook’ (Android) on my phone for spendings that do not get me a receipt. And on my laptop I use ‘Money Pro’ (MacOS) for the complete picture.

I usually go over budget 🙁